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Victory! Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Civil Rights finds state is violating civil rights rules

4 Sep

If federal transportation money is spent on expanding highways while dollars for inner-city public transportation are slashed, how can transit-dependent people – who are much more likely to be people of color – get to their jobs? What impact does expanding highways to the suburbs have on a highly segregated city?

These are the kinds of questions groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation, the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin and the Midwest Environmental Advocates asked the Wisconsin Department of Transportation back in April of 2011. We raised these questions in the name of racial and environmental justice because we knew the state was headed in the wrong direction on transportation priorities. And we learned a big part of the reason these issues weren’t being dealt with fairly was that WisDOT had simply not followed federal rules that require it to have a plan to implement civil rights requirements – and to update that plan every year. Instead, we learned in 2011 that WisDOT hadn’t had a Title VI plan since 2004 – and officials at the Federal Highway Administration office in Madison knew it and let them disregard the rules.

That’s simply the wrong thing to do. When states use hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars, they have to make sure that the benefits of those funds are shared fairly. And it isn’t fair to add to urban sprawl and ignore public transit – especially when the state knows that communities of color depend on transit much more than other groups. It means making sure the state follows Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and ensuring that transportation programs do not effectively discriminate against people of color. In the highly segregated City of Milwaukee, expanding suburban highways while cutting public transit will keep transit-dependent people from jobs, medical care, affordable housing and other needs.

Last month, after a yearlong review, the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Civil Rights in Washington DC agreed with us: they found that the state was “deficient” for not complying with the civil rights rules.  Civil rights officials gave the state 90 days to improve. We’ll be keeping an eye on them as well.

And our other work for racial and environmental justice in southeastern Wisconsin isn’t over: earlier this month we filed a lawsuit in federal court over a highway expansion plan to rebuild and widen the Zoo Interchange, a plan that completely ignored the transit needs of urban communities.

Transit advocates believe that we must have a more balanced plan. When it comes to our tax dollars, fairness means that the most disfranchised in Wisconsin aren’t denied investment in their transportation options.

The story was featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin Public Radio statewide headlines today, as well as a wire story in Sheboygan, Wausau and Pierce County. It also got a mention in the Political Environment blog. Attorney Karyn Rotker was also interviewed on 1290 AM WMCS on Tuesday.

ACLU of Wisconsin & Midwest Environmental Advocates Fight For Faith-Based Groups, Black Health Coalition in Transit Lawsuit

7 Aug

Yesterday, two organizations supporting racial and environmental justice – the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (BHCW) and Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) – filed suit in federal court in Madison, seeking to block the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s efforts to spend $1.7 billion to rebuild and expand the Zoo Interchange at the same time transit is being slashed. The lawsuit challenges the decisions of WisDOT and federal transportation officials to approve the project without including any transit component.

“One of MICAH’s biggest concerns is the extreme and unacceptable rate of joblessness in the central city, for persons of color in general and African-American men in particular,” stated Rev. Willie Brisco, MICAH President. “We all know that people of color depend on transit to get to work at all. We need more transit – to more places where the jobs are – not just highways that don’t help these members of our community get to work.”

The Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin follows World Health Organization policies and principles holding that you cannot have healthy people in a sick community,” added BHCW President/CEO, Dr. Patricia McManus. “Allowing multibillion-dollar highway projects to move forward while transit moves backwards reduces the opportunities to access health care, education, and other needs, as well as employment. And expanding highways while cutting transit also hurts our air quality, which is already much worse this year than it was last year.”

BHCW and MICAH are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin Foundation and by Midwest Environmental Advocates, both non-profit organizations that support environmental justice. Download a copy of the complaint.

The ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation is a non-profit civil liberties and civil rights organization working to protect the rights of Wisconsinites. For more on the work of the American Civil Liberties Union and Foundation of Wisconsin, visit our webpage, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison. Read more news and opinion on civil liberties in Wisconsin on the Forward for Liberty blog.

Midwest Environmental Advocates is a non-profit environmental law center that works for healthy water, healthy air, healthy land and healthy government for this generation and the next. MEA believes that every citizen has the potential to make a difference. Learn more about MEA on their website, midwestadvocates.org.

 

Environmental Justice: Federal Certification of SEWRPC Review Tuesday

24 Jun

Every four years, the federal government has to certify that metropolitan planning organizations are following federal laws, including civil rights and environmental justice standards. In Southeastern Wisconsin, SEWRPC is responsible for making recommendations and setting priorities for funding transportation, land use and natural resource management for seven counties.

But SEWRPC is structured in a way that gives the more densely populated, urban areas less of a voice in decisions. As a result, minority and low-income residents’ concerns haven’t been adequately addressed.

On Tuesday, June 26, officials from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration will be in Milwaukee to review the performance of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC). The public can give testimony and environmental justice, transit and housing advocates are encouraged to talk about the needs of the city of Milwaukee.

Support environmental justice by telling SEWRPC to work harder to make sure underserved communities get a fair share of the region’s transportation spending. The city needs more transit, more job access and more affordable housing.

SEWRPC needs to hear that:

-      More federal “highway” funds are needed to expand transit: federal rules on spending allow for the option to use funds for highway OR transit projects. SEWRPC should use flex funds to expand transit options to meet environmental justice needs in Southeastern Wisconsin.

-      Priorities should emphasize civil rights and environmental justice: a transportation improvement plan should look at how decisions impact minority neighborhoods and urban workers’ ability to access their jobs from affordable housing. SEWRPC doesn’t.

-      Milwaukee City needs a proportionate representation on the commission: No substantive progress has been made since SEWRPC was last asked to develop a greater presence in the city. Further, state law structures SEWRPC to have three representatives from each county which doesn’t reflect the density of cities or give an adequate voice to minority residents. For SEWRPC to truly represent the region, the makeup of the commission should reflect populations proportionately.

 The event runs from 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Tommy Thompson Youth Center at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds.

 

 

Republican Leadership Abuses of Power Continue with Redistricting Secrecy, Cancelled Hearings

20 Feb

Here we go again. Questions still remain about the violation of open meetings laws surrounding the state budget last year. But now with headlines describing secrecy oaths around the redistricting process and cancelling public hearings over the controversial mining bill, state legislative leaders are abusing their power and not listing to voters.

Groups around the state are reacting to last week’s decision by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to dissolve the special Senate Committee on Mining, thereby cancelling public hearings in Platteville and Ashland. Under the guise of job creation, Senate leadership has once again shown their disdain for a fair and open process of lawmaking where the voices of people affected by proposed laws are heard.

This action comes quickly on the heels of Thursday’s news that federal judges chastised Wisconsin Republican leaders for the secrecy surrounding their post-census redistricting plan. Until Wisconsin has a better plan for redistricting (such as a nonpartisan panel of experts creating district maps rather than elected officials), district maps will always be drawn in favor of those in power. But voters should have even less confidence in legislators who assert that something as important as the drawing of legislative maps is something that can be withheld from the public on the basis of an oath of confidentiality between Republican legislators and their attorneys.

We don’t know if that judge’s decision sent enough of a clear message that legislation should be developed in a transparent manner where public has a voice in the process. But Joint Finance Committee chair Rep. Robin Vos nearly cut off a JFC hearing at 5 p.m. on Friday in which people had traveled since well before dawn and waited all day to testify about how the mining bill would impact the environment in their local or tribal communities. After protestations from the crowd, Vos expedited the testimonies by lining up members of the public and allowing them their two minutes to speak.

Democracy lives beyond closed doors of private attorney’s offices and it exists outside of usual business hours. This news continues a second year of an abuse of power and people demand accountability.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Environmental Justice in Milwaukee: Coal-to-Gas Plant Conversion is a Big Step in the Right Direction

5 May

Today We Energies announced it would take the first steps to convert the Valley Power Plant from coal to natural gas. You can read more about it in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The ACLU of Wisconsin is a member of the Cleaner Valley Coalition which applauded We Energies’ announcement today that it will take the first steps to convert the Menomonee Valley coal plant to natural gas. This action has the potential to significantly  improve the Milwaukee community’s air quality and the health of its residents by reducing dangerous air pollution.

“We can all breathe a little easier knowing that We Energies is taking this first step to clean up the plant,” stated Karyn Rotker, Senior Staff Attorney with ACLU of Wisconsin, “This is one of the state’s dirtiest plants, in the midst of communities of color, and we are glad those communities will benefit from a transition to a cleaner fuel source.”

The Cleaner Valley Coalition is a broad and diverse coalition which asked We Energies to clean up the Valley coal plant in the Menomonee Valley and ensure it complies with the latest health standards as soon as possible. Today, during its annual shareholders’ meeting, We Energies announced that they would begin the process to develop the infrastructure for a natural gas pipeline to the plant.

“This is a huge step in the right direction that should be applauded,” stated Virginia Zerpa with the Milwaukee Latino Health Coalition, “However, we must ensure that future decisions made regarding upgrades and construction to the plant continue to have the least negative overall impact on the community and that residents of those communities also benefit from any opportunities – such as job opportunities – new construction provides.”

Milwaukee is consistently given failing grades for its air quality. More than 24,000 people live within a mile of the plant and suffer the worst consequences of the plant’s pollution. Furthermore, Valley lacks modern pollution controls and is a significant source of soot and smog, which are linked to serious health problems like asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.

“The coalition encourages We Energies to move as quickly as possible,” says Reverend Brisco of MICAH, “People’s lives are impacted by Milwaukee’s dirty air each and every day.”

Find out more about the Cleaner Valley Campaign on their website. Or get the latest updates on the coalition’s Facebook page. This blog post was originally posted on the Cleaner Valley Campaign’s website.

Get on the Bus vs. Hit the Highway: Why Walker’s Transportation Policy Impacts Workers, Clean Air and Segregated Cities

5 Apr

On Monday April 4, three organizations supporting racial and environmental justice – the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, and Midwest Environmental Advocates – filed comments opposing the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s efforts to again expand highway access – to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars – at the same time the state is trying to cut transit spending.

Fact: cutting inner-city transportation keeps people from jobs. Milwaukee and state leaders must make the connection that people depend on public transportation to get to work. Read more in today’s Huffington Post.

“WisDOT, and the state of Wisconsin, get federal money, so they must follow Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” noted ACLU-WI Senior Staff Attorney Karyn Rotker. “And that federal law means they can’t run their transportation program in ways that have the effect of discriminating against people of color, regardless of whether they are intentionally discriminating. And the state’s transportation funding and policy decisions are clearly having a discriminatory effect.”

Fact: Milwaukee is the most racially segregated city in the nation. Recent census figures show the continued racial gap and this Salon.com article breaks down why this impacts public debate on transit equity.

“In our region, people of color – especially African-Americans and Latinos – are much more likely to depend on transit than non-minorities. Allowing highway projects to move forward while transit moves backwards reduces their opportunities and segregates them even more from jobs, medical care, and other needs,” added Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin President/CEO, Dr. Patricia McManus.

“WisDOT needs to go back to the drawing board,” said Dennis Grzezinski, Midwest Environmental Advocates’ senior counsel. “They need to come up with a multi-modal plan that integrates transit as well as highways, to ensure that all residents of our region receive a fair share of the benefits of state transportation system investments.”

Read the full comments from the environmental justice organizations on the ACLU of Wisconsin website (PDF).

Learn more about how transportation dollars are affecting the state budget in this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Other groups in Madison are talking about how budget policy will harm public transportation.

Coal Plants and Civil Rights – The ACLU Asks the WI DNR to Reform a Milwaukee-Area Energy Plant

11 Nov

Milwaukee Environmental Justice: Reportback from the We Energies Valley Coal Plant Hearing
On Thursday, November 4th, over 100 community members and organizations attended a hearing held by the state Department of Natural Resources regarding the We Energies Valley Coal Plant in Milwaukee. The coal plant needs a renewal of their air quality control permit but community members objected to the proposed permit and spoke out in support of clean air, energy alternatives and environmental justice.

Environment and civil rights: the connection
What does a coal plant have to do with civil rights? The answer has to do with several key laws that have been passed in the last fifty years. Milwaukee residents say that upgrades in energy plants that dramatically reduce air pollution have happened in suburban areas but not at the Valley Plant in Milwaukee near the high-density neighborhoods mostly composed of people of color. They attended the hearing to say that everyone has an equal right to breathe clean air, not just those who live in predominantly white neighborhoods.

Environmental justice: the law
In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed and said that any program that received federal funding could not directly discriminate or have a discriminatory effect on protected groups. Since the Department of Natural Resources receives federal funds and since the DNR is in charge of approving pollution permits for energy producers like We Energies Valley Coal Plant, the DNR must take into consideration the equal right everyone has to breathe clean air.

The Clean Air Act was first passed in 1970 and has been updated and changed over the years. In the 1990s the law established an improved permit program in an attempt to better regulate energy producers’ air pollution.

In 1994, President Clinton signed Executive Order #12898, on Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. That order said that federal agencies need to know how minority and low-income neighborhoods will be affected by governmental actions in terms of environmental concerns. When outdated, relatively uncontrolled coal plants in low-income neighborhoods pollute the air, everyone there suffers. Governmental agencies have the responsibility to keep energy plants accountable.

Coal plants: impact on the people
Cracking down on air pollution isn’t just about global warming. People suffer immediate health effects when air quality is poor. Bad air makes asthma worse and Wisconsin sees a disproportionate number of asthma cases in the southeast part of the state, particularly with African-American children. The American Lung Association consistently gives Milwaukee an “F” for air quality, high ozone days and excessive particulate pollution. The Valley Coal plant is the oldest of WE Energies’ coal plants and is located in a high-density area of the city with the largest concentration of African-American and Latino residents. Yet suburban plants in Port Washington and Oak Creek and other units have gotten upgrades, pollution controls or even natural gas conversions. The We Energy Valley Coal Plant is not just hurting the environment, its permit has a discriminatory impact on the public health of the community.

The ACLU and you: what you can do
The ACLU of Wisconsin joined the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, Midwest Environmental Associates and the Milwaukee Latino Health Coalition to oppose the permit renewal of the Valley Coal Plant and we submitted our full comments to the state Department of Natural Resources. These organizations got involved because we see, from a systemic level, how government decision-making can disproportionately impact the health and well-being of some of the most disfranchised groups of people in our state.

Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today and let us know that you support our work on racial and environmental justice. Or please consider making a donation to our legal efforts through Community Shares of Wisconsin or Community Shares of Greater Milwaukee. Your tax-deductible contribution to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation helps our legal team be a voice for environmental justice in the state.

Find the organizations’ documents including a press release, comments with references and more on our Racial Justice issues page.

Energy Facilities in Milwaukee Need to Consider Minority, Low-Income Community Impact in Planning Decisions

11 Aug

Urban planning decisions can be a complicated mix of government, business and community members trying to find a balance of their unique interests. But what happens when government makes planning decisions systemically have a negative impact on low-income and minority communities? When some neighborhoods need a voice on environmental concerns, the ACLU of Wisconsin steps up to fight for their needs.

On Monday, the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation’s legal department joined the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin (BHCW) and the Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA) to request that the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) address the disproportionate adverse impacts of electric generating facilities on minority and low-income communities in Milwaukee (PDF). The organizations seek to ensure that the PSC address these environmental justice issues in deciding whether to retire, “mothball,” or upgrade existing electric generating units.

“Environmental justice issues are raised most clearly by WE Energies’ Valley generating plant on Canal Street, in the City of Milwaukee,” said Dennis Grzezinski, MEA Senior Counsel. “This plant is the utility’s oldest power plant and lacks modern air emission controls. It is located in the heart of the State’s largest majority-minority city, between the state’s largest concentration of African-American residents to the north and its largest concentration of Hispanic and Asian residents to the south. While many other old coal-fired power plants in the state are shutting down or being upgraded, the Valley plant has avoided installation of pollution controls.”

In contrast to the negative effects created by the Valley plant, WE Energies’ coal-fired generating plant in Port Washington, a community with very few non-white residents, was razed and replaced with a cleaner, natural gas fueled plant. In Oak Creek, another overwhelmingly white community, four old coal generating units were retired, construction of the second of two new units with pollution controls is nearing completion, and four other old coal generating units are continuing in operation with installation of improved air emission controls.

“The different treatment given the Valley plant raises questions of compliance with the requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and of federal environmental justice requirements,” said Karyn Rotker, ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation Senior Staff Attorney. “We urge the PSC to address them.”

Dr. Patricia McManus, President and CEO of BHCW, pointed out the big picture of both environmental and public health concerns: “The adverse health impacts of air pollution, of which power plants are a major source, are well-recognized. Meanwhile, asthma, caused and exacerbated by air pollution, affects nearly 100,000 Wisconsin children under age 18; is far more common in southeastern Wisconsin; and is far more prevalent among blacks than whites. The problems are exacerbated by the fact that Milwaukee has been designated by the EPA as out of compliance with air quality standards.”

The complete comments can be found on the ACLU of Wisconsin website. Comments include an analysis of federal civil rights law, details on the energy facilities in Milwaukee, how environmental justice principles apply and media reports on the issue. The coal plant story has also gotten some media coverage from the Milwaukee Shepherd Express.

Government Planning Agency Can’t Conduct "Open" Business Via Private Email

28 Jul

The ACLU of Wisconsin has told a Wisconsin agency, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning commission, that it can’t conduct the public’s business in a private e-mail list serve.

The group called SEWRPC is an urban/rural governmental planning organization that is charged with the task of hearing and weighing business, development and environmental decisions for an area spanning seven southeastern Wisconsin counties. The group wanted to have one of its committees, the Environmental Task Force, discuss and vote on whether to accept a consultant’s report about the water supply in southeastern Wisconsin. Karyn Rotker, ACLU Senior Staff Attorney, stepped in to remind SEWRPC that Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law prohibits agencies from discussing and voting on issues in private – and that includes a private email exchange.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has sent the message to SEWRPC before (PDF) about how important it is to weigh environmental and human concerns when making development decisions. We’ve blogged before about how government needs to take into consideration the environmental impact planning decisions have, especially on communities that need help with resources like accessible transportation and clean water.

When demand for water meets bad urban planning: Milwaukee area SEWRPC’s plan for Lake MI

18 Mar

An update on the ACLU’s involvement with environmental justice efforts:

A broad coalition of community groups has filed comments objecting to any efforts to finalize the draft Water Supply Study released by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC). The objections are based on SEWRPC’s continuing refusal to evaluate the civil rights and environmental justice effects of diverting of Lake Michigan water to suburban communities.

“Once again SEWRPC has acted in a way that furthers, rather than reduces, the deplorable racial disparities in our region,” stated Milwaukee Branch NAACP President Jerry Ann Hamilton.

“The Water Supply Study simply does not address the potential harm to urban residents and to the environment that could occur if water sales facilitate suburban sprawl,” noted Karen Schapiro, Executive Director of Midwest Environmental Advocates. Schapiro noted that SEWRPC is basing the Water Supply Study on unsustainable and unreasonable land use assumptions. “SEWRPC admitted it’s assuming that all communities seeking water will follow its regional land use plans – even though it knows those plans have often been ignored. So the demand for diverted water could be much greater, and more harmful, than what SEWRPC is projecting.”

“SEWRPC repeatedly promised that, before finalizing the study, it would take the steps that its own Environmental Justice Task Force wanted,” emphasized Karyn Rotker, ACLU of Wisconsin Senior Staff Attorney. “But when the EJTF asked SEWRPC to conduct an independent socioeconomic impact analysis, they balked. That evaluation must occur before the Water Supply Study is finalized.”

As environmental attorney Dennis M Grzezinski, a former Commissioner and Chair of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District, stated: “SEWRPC’s technical and professional staff includes many talented, competent individuals, and it is terribly disappointing that they have not been allowed to apply their skills to so many important aspects of the water supply picture. No water supply plan can be complete, or even reasonably useful, without addressing these many issues.”

Stimulate public transit, updates on voting rights, US Senate approves equal pay, and more

23 Jan

Civil liberties news in review…

Environmental Justice
The ACLU of Wisconsin has many suggestions for the Governor to make our state government less discriminatory, protective of civil liberties and better for all people. But while the federal stimulus bill is being debated by the national legislature, we suggest that any “shovel-ready” projects we spend federal dollars on go into programs for public transit, rather than more highways. “For civil rights and environmental justice reasons, transit development should be one of Wisconsin’s highest priorities,” stated ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty. “For too many years, communities of color – who are much more likely to be transit dependent than other groups – have been left behind by transportation spending.” For people without cars or drivers licenses, getting to jobs the stimulus is supposed to produce would be impossible without public transportation. Making this a priority will be a better environmental and economic investment.

Racial Justice
And I know that this blog usually focuses on Wisconsin state civil liberties news or really important national ACLU action alerts, but I was really shocked to see this story about how a school in Mississippi just had their first integrated high school prom. Actor Morgan Freeman footed the bill for the shin dig and a documentary crew was there to make a film which premiered last week at Sundance. Some families still had a whites-only, separate prom. We shouldn’t forget that even though millions of people celebrated a historic election and a victory for racial justice this week, fighting racism continues to be at the heart of the ACLU’s commitment to civil rights from Brown v. Board of Education to today’s struggle for educational adequacy and equity.

Voting Rights
Did you hear that Senator Herb Kohl is a co-sponsor of a Weekend Voting Act? He just introduced it as an option for voters who can’t get to the polls on the first Tuesday of November. More voting options help democracy. Good job!

Van Hollen drops GAB lawsuit appeal after they agree to do back checks, in the more reasonable post-election clean up period anyway.

The state Supreme Court said they won’t pull together a plan to settle disputes on pending redistricting after the 2010 census. They are leaving the legislature to hash it out. For a citizen-friendly resource on redistricting and the implications for both democracy and partisan controversies, check out the Brennan’s Center report.

Separation of Church and State
FFRF drops Green Bay lawsuit appeal after no nativity in 2008 season, but takes up the issue of MATC closing for Good Friday.

Women’s Rights
Hey. The US Senate thinks women should get equal pay. Radicals! Now the bill goes back to the House for final consideration. The ACLU applauds the vote.

And in case you missed the national ACLU director on the Colbert Report

Impeachment and the Constitution, fish and justice, voting rights and more

28 Jul

Here’s the news round up for today…

Constitutional Issues
Check out Tammy Baldwin’s statement on why she thinks impeachment is a valid step. Whether or not you think impeachment is worth the time and energy, her comments outline all of the Constitutional concerns of the Bush presidency. The national <a href="
http://www.aclu.org/safefree/36153prs20080725.html”>ACLU responded to the committee hearings with a statment on why expanding Presidential powers throws our democracy off balance.

Environmental Justice
When an environmental hazard disproportionately affects people of color, the worlds of environmental protection and fighting for equality collide. Such is the case with the work of the Madison Environmental Justice Organization. MEJO just put out their <a href="
http://www.madison.com/tct/news/298008″>survey of folks who fish in local waters which offers the numbers behind the faces of people who fish for food (not just for fun). The study underscores why we should first post signs with health warnings around area lakes, and second work to clean up our lakes for everyone to enjoy.

State Legislature
From the do-nothing legislature to the blame-the-other-guy strategy, here’s a commentary about what to expect in the WI state election season.

Voting Rights
Here’s what happened at the Protect Wisconsin’s Vote Education Summit on Thursday. A panel talked about important voting rights trends to watch out for including voter suppression, the myth of voter fraud, ex-offender re-enfranchisement, the pitfalls of voter ID, the importance of preserving same day registration in Wisconsin, the accessibility of polls to those with disabilities, and bilingual barriers. The evening also featured short films and the launch of a website complete with information and resources for voters at www.ProtectWisconsinsVote.org.